For the past decade, wines from Central and Eastern Europe have been something of a sommelier secret stateside. The names can be hard to pronounce (hárslevelű, anyone?), but the best bottles offer exceptional value and tend to work extremely well with food.
Now, with greater economic and political stability in the region combined with growing momentum for native or indigenous grapes among American consumers, these wines are gaining a foothold on U.S. menus and wine store shelves.
Curious? One tricky thing about the category is that because the wine styles are so diverse, it can be difficult to make generalizations about what to buy. A good sommelier or retail shop will come in handy. But if you’re wondering where to start, here are three types of wines you should consider:
Furmint from Hungary
Sommeliers and wine insiders have been raving about furmint for years. The grape, which is commonly used to make Hungary’s famous sweet wines, also makes an intriguing dry wine with medium- to full-body and high acidity (read: an ideal wine to pair with food).
Try: Samuel Tinón Furmint Birtok 2013 (Tokaj, Hungary)
Malvasia from Croatia
Croatia may have initially gained some international fame for its red wines, but many sommeliers now feel that the white Malvasia coming out of the country is some of the best representations of the grape in Europe. When made in a dry style, it makes a crisp wine with some weight in the body, similar to dry Chenin Blanc.
Try: Piquentum Blanc 2013 (Istria, Croatia)
Rkatsiteli from Georgia
Georgian wines can be tricky to pin down from producer to producer. Some are quite rustic and oxidative, while a growing number offer more polish. Natural wine converts prize the skin-fermented wines made in traditional clay qvevri (clay pots). A fair warning: the unusual orange colored wines are not to everyone’s taste, but are worth a try—maybe you’ll be the next super fan.
Try: Orgo Rkatsiteli 2012 (Kakheti, Georgia)